Louisville Football coach Scott Satterfield had a very clear message about recruiting when he took the job in December. He wanted to get guys that fit into his vision for the program from a football skill standpoint as well as a character standpoint. He then made the decision not to honor the scholarship offers for multiple recruits who committed to the previous staff. In essence, he decided to start almost completely from scratch to fill a recruiting class that would have to address glaring needs. Satterfield’s approach to his first class was the right one and Louisville’s 2014 class shows why.
Satterfield had two decisions when it came to this class. He could keep the current commitments and just fill the class with bodies or he could do what he ended up doing. He kept the players in the class that he felt fit what he wants this program to be and he moved on from the rest. He then filled out his staff during the dead period before the staff as a whole came up with a plan. Cort Dennison described the plan pretty simply as the offensive staff and the defensive staff splitting into their respective rooms and evaluating film for a full day. They then hit the road and offered the players that they wanted.
The other option is a perfectly understandable option. Bobby Petrino had a short time to fill out a full class and he chose the route of taking guys that he knew he could get. It’s not abnormal for a coach to go that route but it is risky. Louisville had 26 recruits in that 2014 class. Here’s a rundown of how those players panned out:
- Four signees never made it to campus.
- Two commitments never signed to Louisville or any other school.
- One signee was arrested and charged with a felony before he got to campus.
- One signee ended up being dismissed from the team after being cited for possession of multiple drugs. A student was also found dead in his dorm room after an overdose earlier in the summer. That information didn’t come out until after his was dismissed.
- Update: That 26-man class is down to 19.
- Six signees transferred at some point in their UofL career. Only two of those players ever made a start for Louisville: LJ Scott and Isaac Stewart.
- Update: We’re already under the total number of signees in the 2019 class.
Now, there’s no possible way to know if the 2019 class works out better than the 2014 class. But, the strategy was clearly different and the staff was able to speak to the character and fit of each player they signed. I’d be shocked if they didn’t lose one of these guys to a transfer. I’d also be surprised if they didn’t have some sort of discipline issue. But, I can’t imagine that they’ll have the issues they had in 2014.
Another thing that stood out to me in 2014 was that the staff didn’t do enough to evaluate the current roster for guys that they felt fit what they were going to be doing. Six offensive linemen left the program after the coaching change and they had to overload at that spot in the next class. We all know how that worked out over the next five years. When you mix in all of the spots they missed on in the recruiting class, you have a major numbers issue. In short, Petrino created an issue for himself by not taking the time to plan out his first class.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS FROM SIGNING DAY
- During the coaching search, Steven Godfrey of SB Nation posted this in an article:
The next Cards coach will be tasked with an immediate total rebuild of the Louisville roster, one that multiple FBS coaches described to SB Nation as one of the worst-looking Power 5 teams they’d ever seen.
I think this point was looked at as a commentary on the talent level on the roster but it was actually about the roster imbalance. Louisville finished the 2018 season with eight offensive linemen, one tight end, and two quarterbacks. They also only had seven linebackers and four safeties. That’s a major issue for a roster that is nearly full.
Scott Satterfield took on that challenge and he addressed the roster issues well. UofL ended signing day with fourteen offensive linemen, three tight ends, and three quarterbacks. They have an official visit set for a grad transfer tight end and they are still looking to add grad transfer quarterback. They also signed a handful of linebackers and have a grad transfer linebacker set to make a decision soon. Bryan Brown has also stated that they may look to add a grad transfer in the secondary. All of that doesn’t even include the position changes that we will see throughout spring practice.
The roster still isn’t completely balanced, but it’s nice to see this staff avoid taking another wide receiver for no apparent reason.
- While fixing the roster issues was the top priority getting guys that fit the new scheme was an important part of not wasting this class. Louisville was able to land a haul of offensive linemen that are smaller than the norm but they are much more agile and fit the zone blocking scheme that the offense will use. Ja’Darien Boykin has the potential to be a starter early on because of his burst and explosiveness. I know there are some people that looked at the word “fit” as some sort of excuse, but we have literally watched a program recruit guys every year that were just labeled as “fast” with no other description of what they actually add to the roster. We won’t know if any of these guys will work out until we get down the road, but even I can tell that they make sense for this new scheme.
- I started a post early in the season to try and explain why fans should value the average player rating in a recruiting class over the overall team ranking. I scrapped it because the staff just stopped recruiting once the season started and I had no clue how the class would end up. But, the whole idea is centered around the fact that the recruiting services don’t - or can’t - account for class sizes in their team rankings. They all weigh the total number of prospects in some way and that means that smaller classes aren’t valued the same. The average rating is a more accurate way to value each class and it’s the best way to judge a small class.
UofL’s 2019 class came in at .8499 in the 247 composite. That rating is better than Bobby Petrino’s 2014 class and Charlie Strong’s 2010 class. It’s also better than the 2016 class. So, Louisville got more bang for their buck in this class and they also landed a composite four star. That didn’t happen in Petrino’s first class which was the first in the ACC.
As I was writing this, Richard Johson of SB Nation sorted all of the classes in the composite by average star rating. UofL’s class improved from 73rd to 55th and they landed right between Colorado and Maryland, who also have new staffs. That’s also ahead of Syracuse and Wake Forest in the ACC.
- This recruiting class is far from great. It’s solid and has a couple of guys that will contribute right away. However, it’s gives evidence that this program is being led by a staff that understands how to manage a roster. They also value recruiting in a way that the previous staff didn’t. This roster is in the shape it is in because every year they just loaded up on positions that they ignored the year before. That only led to taking guys that didn’t fit and would never play as well as being forced to pass on other positions of need. The new staff targeted just enough guys at each position they wanted and they were able to fill the class in the way they wanted. That’s a great sign going forward.